Educators no longer need a college degree to begin teaching in Arizona public schools


(CNN) - The education requirement for teachers in Arizona has changed. Under legislation Gov. Doug Ducey signed earlier this week, a person only needs to be enrolled to get their college degree to begin teaching in public schools. It’s a big change, and it’s been met with mixed reactions.

Jens Larson said there was a teacher shortage back when he joined the profession in 2000. “I was hired as an emergency certified teacher. I had a degree but I didn’t have the teacher credentials that were needed,” Larson said.

For 14 years, he worked at the Phoenix Union High School District. He said the low pay, lack of respect, and resources led him to leave. Since leaving, he started Phoenix Youth Circus Arts Program and continues to work with children. “I have more fun teaching circus than I do teaching geometry, I have to admit that,” he said.

But this new change, SB 1159, he said, was a stretch. “The situation will be even worse if you’re dealing with either younger people or even less well-educated people,” Larson said.


“It could work, obviously there’s no one size fits all plan,” said Christopher Ramsey, a Phoenix teacher. Ramsey also benefitted from the teacher shortage years back. “I’m a teacher, and I taught for two years while doing an accelerated master’s program, so I didn’t have my teacher’s degree,” he added. He said if you have the right person, it could work.

The Arizona Educators Association, or AEA, fought this legislation. “You have to have some experience. It’s going to allow people to do on the job training, and that’s where it’s scary,” Marisol Garcia, the President of the AEA, said.

“Signing this bill into law furthers Governor Ducey’s pro-education policies by giving schools the flexibility to establish their own locally designed school leadership preparation programs and will allow those without a bachelor’s degree to start training to become a teacher while also completing their degree. This flexibility will help strengthen the teacher talent pipeline, provide the opportunity for more Arizonans to become teachers, and allow for locally driven solutions.”

Garcia said this changes the credentialing requirements for public schools. In addition, it brings it in line with charter schools. There is a website you can go to check if your child’s teacher is certified by the state. You can find more information at OACIS - Arizona Department of Education (